This morning I read several articles that caught my attention concerning Pastor Louie Giglio being invited and apparently disinvited from speaking at this month’s presidential inauguration. I respect this guy a great deal and believe he handled the situation with incredible candor. Several articles from the NY Times cover the controversy (listed at the bottom of this post) and Atlanta news 11 Alive has a thorough video and article on what occurred:
Some “master of the obvious” observations:
The homosexual debate is not going away, instead the volume is increasing. I live in a state where the “culture war” is largely over since gay marriage is legal and minimal cultural opposition exists. This past year in New Jersey, where I lived for over six years, a gay marriage bill passed in the state assembly only to be vetoed by the governor. In may home state of Georgia, a great contrast exists as in 2004 the state’s citizens easily approved a constitutional amendment defining marriage as “only the union of man and a woman,” but Atlanta (the state’s largest and most influential city) is considered one of the nation’s most “gay friendly” cities with over 12% of the population identifying themselves as gay, lesbian, or bisexual. In all three of these places, Jesus-followers will eventually find themselves in hopefully honest discussions on the issue. It’s a conversation we cannot avoid forever.
Doing good does not necessarily give us added credibility in this arena. I grew up in Atlanta and am a major fan of the Passion movement. They have a solid history of leading college students to reorient their lives around making much of Jesus and being a force for combating human trafficking and sex slavery. President Obama had personally mentioned Louie Giglio and the Passion Movement in speeches for their work at the National Prayer Breakfast and at the Clinton Global Initiative. Based on the inaugural committee’s response, a few statements from a fifteen year old sermon trumps the perceived good of Giglio and Passion: “We were not aware of Pastor Giglio’s past comments at the time of his selection, and they don’t reflect our desire to celebrate the strength and diversity of our country at this inaugural.”
Silence and avoidance appear poor strategies that only delay the inevitable. If we are serious about living out Jesus’ mission of making disciples, we will inevitably have discussions about repentance with people who desire to follow Jesus. It’s impossible to have an honest discipling relationship without discussing repentance, forgiveness, and freedom from sin. Since entering full-time ministry eighteen years ago, this issue has surfaced in every ministry I’ve led. We addressed sexual orientation with the same balance of grace and truth as Jesus, and in most cases we witnessed people experiencing the overwhelming forgiveness and freedom of God’s grace. This almost always led to conversations with others outside these ministries as they saw the change and wanted me to clarify my perspective. These were seldom easy discussions.
Discerning how to communicate the gospel and its implications in an honest, humble, and grace filled manner is crucial. This does not mean it will not cost us as churches and individuals. We must recognize that the social implications of the gospel for all Jesus-followers include continuing to love our neighbors, work for the good of our communities, serve the marginalized, represent Jesus with integrity, and display radical grace to those who disagree with us even as we ourselves may face personal costs. We may hope for social acceptance and cultural influence, but our core motivation must be much greater and deeper, rooted in the radical grace we’ve experienced through Jesus and allowing His name to be great in and through our lives.